Earlier this month, Inside Croydon reported how the council’s planning committee had granted permission for a 540-pupil primary school to be built alongside one of the busiest – and most polluting – arterial roads in the capital, the A23 Purley Way.
A council environmental health officer told that planning meeting that, “If a parent and child is crossing the Purley Way at Fiveways on foot, they will receive insignificant exposure to pollutants.”
Yet so concerned is the council about the air quality near the school, they are undertaking extra costs to hermetically seal the pupils – some as young as five – inside the building from the outside air. The school, which will be built at public expense for the Harris Federation academy operators, is to cost at least £22 million.
Despite the anonymous council officer’s assurances, an independent monitoring service operated by King’s College London shows levels of nitrogen dioxide on the Purley Way had exceeded European legal levels on 22 of the previous 28 days.
On one day in that month, the levels of nitrogen dioxide reached two and a half times the legal limit. Or what is, according to Croydon Council, is an “insignificant exposure to pollutants” for young children.
The council’s position is that the air quality at the site is within EU requirements, because it averages out as being below 40 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m³). Such averaging depends heavily on measurements during the wee small hours and weekends, when traffic levels are reduced, and when small children are not on their way to school.
Perhaps that February to March four-week period was a freak, with unusually high levels of pollutants? So we checked again for last week. Guess what… Legal limits on air pollution on the Purley Way were exceeded on five days in the past week, with nitrogen dioxide levels reaching nearly twice the amounts allowed.
Or “insignificant exposure to pollutants”, according to Croydon Council’s unnamed environmental health officer.
We’ll be keeping a check on the air quality measures on a regular basis. If you want to check out the figures for yourself, go to londonair.org.uk.
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